Bridger Beard is a middle child, and that says a great deal about the Central Valley senior.
Beard is the fifth of Ron and Cindy Beard’s 10 children – nine boys and a girl. This year, for the first time in his high school career, he is the only Beard brother in the CV wrestling room.
Older brothers Blake and Bryson had stellar wrestling careers, collecting five state championships between them (Blake won three titles, Bryson two). Bridger is a definite contender for the State 4A title at 138 pounds, where he hopes to add a sixth state title to the family trove.
“I grew up as their practice dummy,” Bridger laughs. “They definitely gave me a hard time, but they also helped me out a lot. They made me get tougher but they also helped me out, coaching wise. They would always watch my matches and point out things I was doing wrong. We’ve always been close like that.
“They’re both wrestling at North Idaho now. Over Christmas they came back and worked out with us in the high school wrestling room.”
In fact, the wrestling tradition started with the eldest, Brady, who wrestled at Ephrata High. Brenton placed fifth at the State 2A tournament while wrestling at Riverside and took home a third-place trophy as a senior at Central Valley after the family moved to Liberty Lake.
“It’s kind of exciting to be the only one in the room this year,” Bridger said. “I was used to kind of being in their shadow, and now I can see there are eyes on me and guys are watching me and learning from me. I take that seriously.”
For the most part, he says, he tries to set a tone in the practice room.
“I try not to waste time,” he said. “This is where you go to get better. Working hard is how you get better.”
Central Valley won’t go Beard-less after Bridger graduates.
“My sister, Brielle, is going to be here next year,” he said. “She works as hard at basketball as we do at wrestling and I am going to be excited to see what she does.”
And there are more brothers heading to the wrestling room. Bennett, Blaine, Bayden and Braxton all are avid wrestlers.
“I try not to make them my practice dummies,” Bridger laughed. “I try to take it easy on them.”
Bridger Beard already has two state trophies to his credit. He place fourth as a sophomore at 126 pounds and was the runner-up at 132 pounds last year, losing to Josh Franich of Puyallup in the final.
This year he’s the No. 3 ranked wrestler at Class 4A at 138 pounds – the division Blake won a state title at.
“I’m pretty satisfied with where I am right now and how my season has gone,” he said. “I have a couple losses at this point, but that just shows me what I need to work on and that I need to work that much harder if I’m going to win a state title.”
And, he explains, he has first-hand knowledge of what it’s going to take.
“I watched both of my brothers put in the hard work that it takes to be a state champion,” he said. “I think it helps when you see it first-hand like that.”
“It’s really easy to say that you want to be a state champion. But I grew up watching my brothers work. They always worked hard.”
Beard is ready for tonight’s Battle of the Bone – the annual Greater Spokane League spirit match with University.
“This is always special,” he said. “When the lights go down and it’s just you on the mat against an opponent and everyone is watching you and cheering, it’s pretty special.
“Remember going out for my match that first year. I was really nervous for that match and my coach, John Owen, took me aside and told me: ‘Your only job now is to go out there and have fun. That’s all you need to do. That’s what you’re here for.’ I’ve always remembered that advice.
“One of my favorite memories is winning my match in the Battle of the Bone as a sophomore – my first win there. That was cool.”
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